Not everyone can be an artist. Even though I believe that everyone has some creativity within, I will go so far to say not everyone possesses an artistic talent. At least not an artistic talent that is good enough to hand make a product and sell it for a profit.
Some of us just have better art skills than others. That’s okay. We are just all different.
But when thinking about the types of online stores that you can open, many will look straight to Etsy for answers. It makes sense. I’ve found Etsy to be one of the easiest platforms to open an online shop on and they provide a direct link to potential customers. Without much marketing effort.
And when you are just starting out (especially if you have kids and a job at home), it can create the perfect entrepreneur balance.
The problem with Etsy is that you need some sort of artistic talent to market. Etsy started as a handmade marketplace for artists after all. Although they have left some of their handmade roots behind, the marketplace is still meant for artisans. You need a skill that you can use to make products, crafts or other handmade wonders. Or at least a good sense of design and photography.
If you have at least some artistic talent, then developing that into a successful Etsy shop may be the perfect match for you. But what do you do if you don’t? Can you still find a type of online store to open on Etsy or should you look for another business model to explore?
Although art and crafting is at the heart of many shops on Etsy, there are still other types of online stores that you can open on Etsy. Here are some shop ideas if you don’t have a lot of artistic talent, but still want to join the Etsy revolution.
From baking to craft supplies, artisans need a place to get the things they use to make their crafts. When I started my Etsy shop many years ago, supplies were a banned item. I didn’t think I had much artistic talent either (until my customers told me otherwise), so I loaded our shop with party and craft supplies any way. I got two warnings to remove them (even though other vendors were selling them too) and had to take them out of the shop.
Fast forward to today and you will find an abundance of shops offering some very unique supplies. You can create a shop featuring many tools of the craft trades. You’ll find scrapbook papers, stickers, yarn, knitting needles, pens, etc. If you need some inspiration, check out Etsy’s home page and look under the supplies tab.
If there is an artisan trade that you are passionate about, instead of developing products to sell, you could create a shop that sells tools for that trade. Since you already do this art as a hobby, you are probably very familiar with the tools needed.
You will need to figure out how to source the tools at wholesale prices to allow for you to resell them at a profit. Check Alibaba, trade shows and the manufacturer websites of your favorite tools to see what wholesale offerings they can provide.
I have always had a soft spot for packaging. I love putting together pretty favors and gifts that make recipients feel special. Creative packaging ideas used to be limited to what your local party or craft store offered. Today, though, you can easily purchase large quantities of packaging materials, separate them into smaller amounts and sell them at a profit.
When thinking about packaging, also consider the types of packaging other shop owners might need to make their products look amazing. You can select unique boxes, ribbons, crinkle shred, baker’s twine, stickers and other packaging fun.
This is probably my favorite of the different types of online stores that you can open on Etsy. And who doesn’t love vintage?
If you have a love affair with old things and enjoy scouring flea markets, thrift shops and yard sales for treasure, then maybe a vintage shop on Etsy is a good fit. Apart from decent photography, no real artistic talent is necessary. You would need an eye for antiques instead.
When looking for items to include in the shop, think about things that can easily be shipped.
For example, you might want to think twice about sellign breakable items. They are pretty fragile and could break during shipping.
Instead, look for items that are less difficult to ship. And remember, the less fragile the better.
Search your local flea markets, thrift shops and yard sales for treasures that you can dust off. Make sure you pay a low price in order to make a profit. One idea is to hit up a thrift shop on a sale day during the week. Sometimes you can get items up to 50% off. More profit in your pocket!
I know that this post is about the types of online shops to open if you don’t have artistic talent. But some of you might be able to paint or fix.
You could consider adding your own artistic touch to the vintage items that you choose to sell. A coat of paint, a simple sanding or changing one of the fixtures could increase an item’s value tremendously.
Also think about where and when the item could be used. You could specialize in vintage items for weddings, holidays or special events to increase sales. The possibilities are endless and who doesn’t like a weekly shopping trip… (If you can’t tell, opening a vintage shop on Etsy would be one of my dreams one day.)
During their attempts to help Etsy sellers scale their shops, Etsy gave others without as much handcrafting talents a gift. Drop shipping through Printful.
They created an integration that allows Etsy sellers to create a design and have Printful print it on one of their products. You can make everything from t-shirts to mugs. So if you are good at designing or want to invest in someone else to help, you could create a shop based on putting those designs on Printful products.
There’s a lot of competition out there, so your ideas must be really unique and stand out in the marketplace. This is a great way, though, for designers to market their work without having to actually make the product themselves. And Printful has hundreds of products that you can add your designs to.
So, those are some types of online stores that you can open on Etsy that don’t focus on art.
But what if you don’t want to open an Etsy shop, but still want to run an online business? I get it. There has been some negative press about Etsy over the past year and the fee increases this year are making many think about looking elsewhere.
Also, your business dreams might not lie in handcrafted products. You might want to offer a product that’s different and doesn’t adhere to their stricter codes of conduct. Or you just might want to be more independent with room to grow your online shop without the oversight of a corporate company.
If you decide to go the independent route, artistic talent doesn’t matter as much any more. You can create many types of online stores that source products from around the world or sell your own. Here are some ideas to get started:
If you have a skill (artistic or not) that you want to share with the world, consider writing a course about it. You can use Teachable and create an online course for free. Or check out another online course creator to see which one works best for you. Once you have created your online course, you can start selling it to your audience.
But what do I create a course about? Think about all of the things that you know how to do, are passionate about or want to share with others. See if any of those topics can be turned into a course. You will be surprised how many course ideas you come up with. Talk with peers about whether they want to learn about any of those topics. Then, get to creating.
When written well, e-books are fantastic. They are easy to access (I can download them to read anywhere… think school pick up line) and can be fun to read. If you have a topic that you want to teach about, but is too small for a course, consider writing an e-book instead.
You can upload and sell your e-books through Amazon Kindle or directly on your website. Choose topics that you are familiar about and can teach others. Speak with your peers about things they want to learn more about. Then, just start writing. (This can be the hardest part.)
FBA and Drop Shipping
If you don’t want to make your own products, you can find other products made by others to sell. The problem with this business idea is that it takes up space. Believe me, I know. When I started Katarina’s Paperie, I sold packaging and party supplies from a walk-in closet in our condo. Now, I still sell some of these items, but at least they are located in an official storage area.
Storing your own items takes a lot of space (hence, warehouse areas). You also need time to package them and prepare for shipping. Many times the amount of time spent on these activities does not equal the profit made. Imagine late nights sorting cupcake liners into creative combinations to make $3.00 per a pack.
Unless you are able to sell in mass quantities, it can take a lot of effort to turn a decent profit. Plus, if you store the items in your home the kids will eventually get into them. Promise. True story.
That’s why the dawn of FBA (or Fulfillment by Amazon) and drop shipping has been so wonderful. For FBA, you send your inventory directly to Amazon. They store it and when an item is sold, they package and ship it for you. No more storing items in the basement or shed. No more having to package it and drive to the post office for shipping. Amazon does everything for you. There are sellers who have built $100,000/year businesses based on this model. You just need to figure out what people are looking for and spending money on.
If this all makes you feel a little bit uneasy (as a designer and someone who is obsessed with quality control, I struggle with FBA), you might want to check out drop shipping on Shopify. You can open a Shopify website and select a drop shipping carrier such as Aliexpress. They will connect your shop and product listings with their inventory. When a product sells, they will directly ship it to the customer for you. Hence the idea of drop shipping.
It’s important to note, though, there have been recent changes to our postal agreement with China. The result could mean the end to this type of business model. You can find out more about the changes here.
Maybe offering a product to your audience isn’t your plan. Instead, you could build a business creating services for clients. Just like with developing a course, you need to find skills that you have and then you can coach someone else in them.
Building up a client base can be hard, but your skills can be in whatever area you’d like. No artistic talent necessary. You also won’t have to rely on the constant e-commerce sales windows. If you set up services that are offered on a monthly fee basis, you could create a business model with clients that you help continuously. I used to work at a consulting firm that was set up with this model. It was quite successful.
Whatever types of online stores you decide to start, just remember that not all businesses are based solely on artistic talent. There are many of us that are designers, creators and makers.
But that doesn’t mean those are the only types of online stores you can start as a mom. There are lots of ways to combine your work talents and still create an online venture from home.
And it also doesn’t mean that you can’t be on Etsy if you want to. Not all successful Etsy businesses are based on artistic talent. Supply, packaging and vintage businesses can be quite successful.
Whichever entrepreneural direction you choose, just remember to write the business plan and start. You will never know how successful your idea might be without bringing it to life.